Robinson Jeffers (John Robinson Jeffers) Biography
(1887–1962), (John Robinson Jeffers), Tamar and Other Poems, Oresteia, Medea, Tamar
American poet, born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, educated at Occidental College in California. In 1913 he settled at Carmel, California, its mountainous coastal landscape becoming the principal source of imagery for his verse. Central to much of his work is the philosophy he termed ‘Inhumanism’, the belief in the superiority of nature to man; ‘I'd sooner … kill a man than a hawk’ in ‘Hurt Hawks’ is the best-known statement of his dismissive and often contemptuous attitude to humanity. Tamar and Other Poems (1924) established him as a poet of importance, its powerfully direct and carefully cadenced free verse, often in lines of unusual length, emerging as the characteristic form of his best work. The title poem's treatment of the theme of incest uses a modern Californian setting for its adaptation of elements from the biblical story of Tamar. The collection also contains the first of his many versions of classical narratives in ‘The Tower beyond Tragedy’, based on the Oresteia of Aeschylus. His Medea (1946), a version of the work by Euripides, was successfully produced on Broadway in 1947. The poems of Tamar were reprinted in Roan Stallion, Tamar, and Other Poems (1925), the new title piece drawing on the Californian folk tradition for its incipiently mythological celebration of feral energy. Numerous subsequent collections, typically dominated by lengthy narrative title poems, include The Women at Point Sur (1927), Cawdor and Other Poems (1928), and Thurso's Landing (1932). Selected Poems appeared in 1938. Following the death of his wife in 1950 he became reclusive and published no further collections after Hungerfield and Other Poems (1954). The first two volumes of a projected four-volume edition of his Collected Poetry appeared in 1988 and 1989. The Stone Mason of Tor House (1966) is M. B. Bennett's biography of Jeffers.